It seems like Amazon isn’t satisfied with its current products and that’s great as the brand is all set to expand its services beyond the streaming service, cloud storage, Kindle and book libraries, movies, and many more.
The company threw its hat in the hardware business, and so, Amazon Fire TV comes in the picture. With the design—a black plastic matte streaming set-top box—it obviously resembles an Apple TV and implies one thing: there’s a showdown between the two.
Amazon Fire TV comes with more notable features than Apple TV—in some cases, it functions significantly less, which may lead you to rethink before you buy one.
Whether you’re an avid Amazon Prime member, an Apple fanboy/fangirl, or the new kid on the block who’d like to check and compare both, here is a roundup of features and specs as reference.
Inside the box and hardware design
A hundred bucks, specifically tagged at $99, Amazon Fire TV, gives you a media streaming set-top box experience. This Internet-powered device lets you watch videos from Amazon Instant video, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and other platforms and play games with the controller, which is sold separately.
On the flipside, Apple TV is tagged with the same price and offers almost the same set-top box experience but operates within the iOS ecosystem and Apple services such as AirPlay and iTunes Match.
Both of them are small, flat, black set-top boxes (Fire TV is Flat Square, while Apple TV is rounded in edges). Each comes with a remote control and power supply that won’t take up much space in your entertainment cabinet. While the two boxes don’t include HDMI cable (make sure you have one already), the Amazon Fire TV entices you with a dedicated game controller that is sold separately for $39.
Set-up for both Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV is easy. Once you get the package, it’s ready to use. However, here’s an interesting feature of the former: once it gets in your smart TV, Amazon Fire TV automatically figures out who you are. In a nutshell, it syncs to your Amazon account. Once you plug it in, it will sign in your account. No frills, no questions, but somehow creepy at first. You don’t have to enter your username and password.
The ease of navigation in a streaming box is important, and you can attest it through the remote control. Apparently, one can make his own likings when it comes to the design and convenience, but obviously, Amazon Fire TV’s remote is way terrific than the other because of its flagship feature: voice search option.
Just say the word(s) and the voice search option will do the job in searching a smorgasbords of movies, TV shows, and more. However, as much as you want to command it for search, it is limited to the Amazon library. Even if you’re logged in using your Netflix account or other platforms in the Fire TV, the voice search will show you results from its catalog.
Aside from that, Amazon Fire TV’s remote control is thicker than Apple TV’s, which is quite a change if you’ve been using the latter in its slender and too-minimalist design.
The voice search option sends the search requests to the cloud server, and within a few seconds, it shows the relevant results. Whether it’s a name of your favorite actor, movie title, or a show, you’ll find what you’re looking for as long as you’re logged in with your Amazon account.
UI/UX and navigation
While the Apple TV gives you a list of app icons in the screen that you can customize, the Amazon Fire TV comes with a vertical menu with a list of options and content on the right.
The Apple TV functions within the iOS ecosystem that allows you to have an instant access of the iTunes rentals on the top row of the icons, media streaming, iTunes Radio, television shows, and other services—all of these can be accessed through iTunes account.
On the other hand, Amazon Fire TV comes with ease of navigation when searching because of the voice search feature. You can instantly control and check the results, whether you speak or type in queries. No clunky, chunky part with the UI/UX; the interface lets you navigate by scrolling up and down. I must say, the Quad-core processor makes everything swift and fast.
Both streaming set-top boxes have a huge library of movies, shows, applications, and entertainment features that users can choose from. It totally depends on what entertainment ecosystem you’re comfortable with and which suits you best.
If you’ve invested on Amazon services and subscribed with the Amazon Prime membership, you’d enjoy the perks of having the Fire TV and really maximize all the content you’d purchase. Whereas if you’re into iTunes, I don’t see any reason for you to get the Fire TV because it doesn’t support any of Apple services, unless you’d like to invest on a new media set-top box and you’re a gamer junkie (since Amazon’s game control is definitely a hunk for gaming droids!).
As of this writing, Amazon Fire TV doesn’t support music streaming. This means that Apple TV wins in this turf, knowing that the latter’s cloud music is integrated with iTunes. I’m a bit surprised why Amazon didn’t include this feature now.
However, the Cloud Music on Amazon Fire TV is rumored to arrive this May.
Processor, storage, and memory
Apple TV is powered by 2-GHz Single-core. Its storage is used for caching media only and a 512-MB memory. On the flip side, Amazon Fire TV sports a 1.7-GHz Quad-core + GPU and comes with 8-GB storage and 2-GB memory. Now you know why the Amazon Fire TV is “on fire” when you flip on the movies. In short, it’s faster than its rival, for now.
As mentioned earlier, Amazon Fire TV comes with a game pad, sold separately for 39 bucks. You can access 134 games and more to come as Amazon expands it database. Anyway, most of the games can be played without the game controller or you can just use the remote control. But if you want to spice things up a bit and a casual gamer, Amazon Fire TV is a good option.
Apple TV doesn’t have any games in the box, as of now. If you have an iOS device and want a bigger screen, AirPlay is just a few taps away.
In the end, if you’re a gamer and has already invested on Amazon products (plus the Kindle Fire), logically, you’d enjoy the perks of your Prime membership and dabble on gaming experience. While both of them have the same prices, Amazon Fire TV is aggressively moving forward to get a market share along with also adds flair of gaming pad and voice search feature.
Want to go a bit more in-depth? Here’s a chart below for a deep dive into the specs:
|List Price||Amazon Fire TV||Apple TV|
|HDMI video out (up to 1080p)||Yes||Yes|
|Certified Dolby Digital Plus surround sound||Yes||No|
|Optical audio out||Yes||Yes|
|Memory||2 GB||512 MB|
|Ethernet (wired connectivity)||Yes||Yes|
|Remote with no line of sight required||Yes||No|
|Amazon Instant Video||Yes||No|
|Number of Games||100+
(thousands more coming soon)
|Optional dedicated game controller (sold separately)||Yes||No|